The Poor, Beleaguered Patent Trolls

by on March 31, 2008 · 16 comments

You may have read Tom Giovanetti’s piece on the plight of DataTreasury Corp. The op-ed is remarkable for its lack of specificity. For example, we’re informed that:

Worse, these banks also are asking Congress to make taxpayers pay the patent holder for their illegal actions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bailout would cost the federal government at least a billion dollars.

But Giovanetti never bothers to explain how this “bailout” would work, whose patents would be affected, or who would control the allocation of “taxpayer dollars” to patent holders. I’ve read quite a bit about the major provisions of the pending patent reform bill, and none of the coverage I’ve read mentioned any program that would allocate a billion dollars to pay off patent holders so that banks could infringe their patents. It’s possible that this provision has slipped below the radar. It’s also possible that Giovanetti is describing the debate in a somewhat misleading fashion. Any body know what he might be referring to?

In any event, here is a New York Times article that gives a more nuanced account of DataTreasury’s situation. We learn, for example, that “it is a company whose only business, other than one client, appears to be suing other companies.” It appears that they managed to get a broad patent on fundamental concepts in digital check-clearing, making it impossible for banks to participate in the new “Check 21” check-clearing process Congress approved in 2003. In other words, the story may not be so much about banks “using” DataTreasury’s “technology” as it is about extortion on DataTreasury’s part.

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